Relaxing after a worship assembly one Sunday evening with the brethren at a local diner, the casual conversation served as a welcome wind-down for me; preaching can be an intense experience. I was counting my blessings, enjoying spiritual family and anticipating a tasty meal, when one of my brethren looked at me with what can only be described as the blankest face, void of expression, I’ve ever seen and said (with dripping sarcasm): “I love salad.”
It took me so off guard that I almost spewed tea across the table and everyone in earshot got a good laugh. However, later on, I began to think about the truth in that humorous sarcasm. Of course, the purpose in my brother’s eating salad in lieu of a big, juicy steak with skillet-fried potatoes and a double-spoon-full of buttered-beans had everything to do with his health, something we all become more concerned about as we age (no offense intended, brother). Frankly, we all know salad cannot compete with that Texas-sized man-meal; but, we eat salad.
Many of the pleasures of this life have impact far beyond the moment. Residual, negative consequences can even end up being permanent. I’m not talking here about those evils that God clearly condemns as soul-killers; there is no way to moderately practice fornication or lying. However, there are enjoyments in this life that, in thoughtless excess, can cause long-term damage, physical death or even spiritual death. The misuse of any of God’s blessings can manifest themselves in gluttony or habits or any number of other abuses. But, what they really betray a lack of self-control.
“Whoever has no rule over his spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). Better is the person who has self-control than the conqueror of a city (Proverbs 16:32; I am forever amazed at pundits who preach self-control on the one hand while grossly ignoring it on the other; what hypocrites). We, as Christians, are dedicated to a life of denying self (Luke 9:23), so living in unbridled excess does little to reinforce the Gospel. A Christian will employ self-control when the siren-song of surfeit serenades us with overindulgence; we possess our own body in sanctification and honor (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).
We will more effectively convince a struggling, lost soul of the joy of salvation if they see the joy in our sacrifice to obtain it. There is no denying the struggle of denying self, but if that denial produces salvation for a struggling soul, I will love salad.